A series of live conversations between writer Carl Zimmer and eight leading thinkers on the question of what it means to be alive. What Is Life? was recorded in front of a live audience at Caveat in New York and is supported by a grant from Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative.
Donato Giovannelli is an assistant professor at the University of Naples “Federico II.” He travels to acid lakes and other extreme environments that are the closest thing today to what Earth was like when life began.
All the life we know is the same: carbon-based, with DNA for genes. (Okay, except for RNA viruses.) But Steven Benner says it doesn’t have to be that way. Benner is a Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
We don’t know how life got its start. But as more evidence emerges, explains astrobiologist Caleb Scharf, only a few theories are emerging as leading contenders. Scharf is the director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center at Columbia University.
Carlos Mariscal is a philosopher at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He collaborates with evolutionary biologists and astrobiologists to explore what it means to be alive. When we ask what is life, Mariscal suggests, we may be asking the wrong question.